‘Travel sector to benefit if quarantine scrapped’

The Travel Industry Council has welcomed the government’s easing of the flight suspension mechanism, but said people will still refrain from travelling in or out of Hong Kong, as long as hotel quarantine is required when they reach the SAR.

From May 1, airlines will be barred from flying here if over five percent of the whole flight, or five passengers, are infected – up from the current threshold of three passengers.

The suspension period will also be cut from seven days to five. Non-Hong Kong residents will also be allowed to fly in from overseas once again.

Speaking on radio shows on Saturday, leaders of the Travel Industry Council said the new relaxations will make airlines’ jobs easier, but overseas tours still can’t be held.

“Based on the quarantine policy, we don’t think we can start our business to overseas or any tourist is coming to Hong Kong… We hope that the government will have the timetable and lift the quarantine policy as soon as possible,” said the council’s chairwoman Gianna Hsu.

The council said officials could also let people quarantine at home and scrap the flight suspension policy when the epidemic further eases.

Speaking on a morning programme on Saturday, government expert adviser David Hui said the easing of Hong Kong’s flight-suspension mechanism will not pose any risks to the territory.

The Chinese University professor said travellers still have to be tested before they fly and upon arrival, in addition to spending at least seven days in hotel quarantine.

“We now have plenty of isolation and quarantine facilities, so even if you increase three passengers to five passengers being positive to activate the flight suspension, it doesn’t really put any pressure on the local system,”he said.

“In the last few months, quite a lot of people in Hong Kong actually have been infected, they do have antibodies and some immune defence mechanism. And the vaccination rate in Hong Kong has increased tremendously over the last few months… So we are in a much better position to loosen the strict criteria.”

The expert said Hong Kong hasn’t seen an upsurge in infections after the Easter holidays, but he expects the government to observe the situation for two more weeks before easing social distancing measures any further.